by Mackenzie Hurlbert
For The Red Barn Flea Market, it’s all in the family. Based in Bradenton, FL, the market has been owned and operated by the same family since 1981. On its first night over 30 years ago, The Red Barn had fewer than a dozen vendors—now their total in-season stretches over 400. Linda Sterrett, daughter of Carl Shepard, founder of the flea market, says she and two of her siblings run the market now.
“We want to have a family-friendly, diverse market for people to enjoy,” says Sterrett. “And a place where the American spirit still lives and the opportunity for people to own their own business.” The Red Barn provides a comfortable, air-conditioned indoor shopping experience for the whole family and stretches an expansive 145,000 feet.
Along with over 600 traditional booths, The Red Barn also offers an open-air farmers market and food courts. Visitors can stop in to grab fresh produce, eat some prepared foods, or enjoy live entertainment. “We have farm fresh produce, souvenirs, t-shirts, clothing and shoes, jewelry, home decor, fishing gear, sports clothing and memorabilia, collectibles, coins, tools, custom car stuff, and so much more,” notes Sterrett. The market also offers a delicious variety of food including kettle corn, ethnic treats, and bakery goods.
“Our market is quite unique,” adds Sterrett. “We have a large farmer’s market with fresh local produce, local honey, and locally-made products. We have several artists in residence. Their works include scenery in watercolor, portraits, and oil on canvas, and we have a custom framer. We have a jeweler that custom-makes fine jewelry, and our tackle shop is a great source of information for local fishing!”
The Red Barn prides itself on fostering the growth of entrepreneurs and craftsmen. “Our market is full of small business people that live and work in our community,” said Sterrett. “When we buy local, the money stays within our community.”
Part of what makes The Red Barn Flea Market so unique is its commitment to providing an entertaining environment for the whole community. On every Friday and Saturday night, visitors can dance along to live music in the main food court. Last fall they held a pumpkin patch event and costume day, and this winter, they are hosting a visit from Santa. Other events include a St. Patrick’s Day “Red Barn Turns Green” event and a visit from the Easter Bunny.
One thing is for certain, The Red Barn Flea Market is a fun shopping and entertaining experience for all ages. When looking to the future, “we will continue to add diverse vendors and merchandise,” says Sterrett, “to provide a unique and fun experience for our visitors.”
Red Barn Flea Market
1707 First Street
East Bradenton, FL 34208